In this episode of 1Uesday, let’s talk about the 1U module I’d easily tell people to buy first. It’s a perfectly elegant combination of clock, random pulse, analog noise, sample and hold, and slew – and here’s why that’s so essential.

There’s a lot in modular hardware that can be accomplished with other hardware and software. So it makes sense to have some modules that really make use of patching control voltage as an interface – and few pack more functionality in that regard than Noise Tools.

At first blush, this just looks like a module with some noise sources in it, but it’s really a combination of several modules in a single design:

  • Analog pink and white noise source
  • Pulse output, switchable so it can be either a steady clock source or a random gate generator
  • Analog sample and hold circuit, switchable to track and hold (more on that in a moment)
  • Analog slew with adjustable slew rate

This is also an admirably legible front panel design – which is not entirely commonplace in Eurorack (cough). So as you can see on the panel, the blocks feed from left to right. That means you can actually find a number of operations without patching – but you can also break those normals for more features.

Here’s how you can then use this in a modular rig – even a small one.

Clock and rhythm source. Noise Tools will be a clock if you want – ranging from 15 sec pulses up through usual metronome ranges into 2.5 kHz max. If you want something more organic, you can set this to RANDOM mode. It’s not going to replace a separate clock source if you need a defined BPM (for that, I have a 1U version of Mutable Instruments Yarns, After Later’s Threads). But for improvisation, it’s ideal – even for getting away from those BPMs. And you can also run a clock into it, via the TRIG input. (That might not be immediately obvious, since the arrow is into TRIG, but that’s the normaled operation; adding your input determines your own trigger.)

Noise source. These are also really great-sounding pink and white noise sources, so ideal for percussion – especially with an LPG, for instance. And you can get other noisy sounds out of the other outputs, too.

Sample and hold / track and hold. Using either a noise source or any external source, you can also sample signal. Sample and hold captures and keeps steady signal at each pulse – that’s a simple, stepped signal. Track and hold tracks the falling edge of … jeez, this just needs a picture, but in words, it gives you a more irregular signal. Sample and hold generates a nice stream of steady of values; track and hold gives you an interesting, more complex signal that sounds great as a modulation source.

Slew. Slew lets you round out an input signal – it’s a little akin to easing for you visual folks.

The combination of S&H (with track mode) and that nice big slew knob means you can output a range of useful pitch or modulation signals from Noise Tools, and create new shaped signals from external inputs.

There are a couple of other great design features here. The dedicated clock, input, and slew LEDs mean you can always clearly see what’s going on. Intellijel’s stuff also just feels great and in my experience is all exceptionally well engineered. Erm, I’m making a point of that because much as I love the lawless diversity of Eurorack, this kind of engineering and design is often not the rule. (I’m, uh, being diplomatic.)

If anything, the Noise Tools reminds me of a lot of what I like about the classic Buchla Source of Uncertainty. The formula is here – noise source, samples and quantization, output. But it’s not that, exactly. Intellijel’s design is simpler, which also makes it fit the smaller form factor, but also encourages you to get creative with how you dial the signals or vary the output with different inputs or breaking normals. (I’m excited we have both – now Tiptop makes an affordable 266t.)

This little 1U gem, though, is just US$99 new, and takes incredibly little space. The simplicity hides the potential here. I think you’ll constantly find yourself dreaming up new uses for it.

Here is in action:

I’d love more use of 1U like this, and more modular design like this in general. And yeah, mine isn’t going anywhere.

22 HP x 1U, though that for me neatly fits on the left-hand side of my Palette. I was honestly nervous about investing too much in modular, but I’m really glad I bought this one. (Seriously.)

Noise Tools 1U: Clock, Random Pulse, Analog Noise, Sample and Hold, and Slew

And at the moment they’re a little tricky to get, but go grab one while you can. At Thomann, at least, they’re in stock:

Notice: these are affiliate links, which help support CDM.

Intellijel Designs Noise Random Tools 1U []

Sweetwater is backordered as I write this (as is the manufacturer):

Intellijel NoiseTools 1U [Sweetwater]

Previously on 1Uesday: